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Max Lilienthal

The Making of the American Rabbinate

Bruce L. Ruben

Publication Year: 2011

Explores the life and thought of Rabbi Max Lilienthal, who created a new model for the American rabbinate.

Published by: Wayne State University Press


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pp. vii-x

In early March 2007, I was sitting at the Hebrew Union College Founders’ Day commemoration in my new capacity as director of the School of Sacred Music. At the end of the service, I was touched to hear the name of Max Lilienthal read among the school’s departed faculty. After spending...

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1 German Origins: Between Reaction and Modernity

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pp. 1-20

Maximilien Eduard Emanuel Lilienthal (known as Max Lilienthal) was born in Munich in November 1814, the same year that the family took Lilienthal as their official surname.1 Max was the first of seven children born to Dina Lichtenstein and Loew (or Loeb) Seligmann. His birth...

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2 Exporting Haskalah: The Russian Mission

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pp. 21-57

The young rabbi may not have been so enthusiastic about going to Russia if he had truly understood the political drama into which he was naively walking. The cast of characters, most of whom only partly understood each other, had contradictory motivations. The most powerful player...

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3 On to America: Congregational Rabbi

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pp. 59-94

Leaving Russia in July 1845, Lilienthal sailed homeward. On the way, he stopped in Magdeburg to give a full report to his mentor, Ludwig Philippson, who had originally recommended him for the mission.1 Nothing could deter Lilienthal for long, though, from the much anticipated reunion with his beloved Pepi. They had missed...

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4 The Evolution of a Reformer

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pp. 95-134

A little more than two years after Lilienthal’s arrival in America he found himself unemployed and needing to support his wife, 1½year-old daughter Eliza, and a newborn son, Theodore. The chief rabbi, who had so recently reported his successes back to Germany through his articles in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, had to reinvent himself yet again. He himself had warned potential immigrants that the...

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5 Fighting for a Moderate Reform Agenda

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pp. 135-159

Cincinnati, situated on the northern bank of the Ohio River, was founded in 1788. The long river, the major highway connecting the settled East with the new Northwest Territories, was the settlement’s lifeblood. As the frontier town grew from a few log cabins to a major city in southern Ohio, its history remained intimately tied to the river. Cincinnati had long been a congenial...

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6 Creating the New American Rabbi

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pp. 161-191

Facing one of the lowest periods in his career, Lilienthal turned his attention to another area of great personal interest—the civic life of Cincinnati. Isaac M. Wise gives us insight into his friend during this difficult period in his rabbinate. “A man with the mind, energy, culture and refinement of Dr. Lilienthal can not possibly remain inactive. He...

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7 The Quest to Unite American Jewry

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pp. 193-219

The decades following the Civil War were characterized by economic growth and by the revolutionary changes wrought by industrialization and urbanization. In the Northern states there was prosperity, a sense of power, and a spirit of buoyant confidence. Industry expanded rapidly and cities grew at an unprecedented rate.1 The optimism of the period encouraged churches...

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8 Legacy

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pp. 221-238

Lilienthal remained vital and active in the full range of his professional, civic, and educational projects. His life in Cincinnati was rich, surrounded by family and friends. His youngest daughter, Victoria (b. 1861), then in her late teens, presided over his home. He referred to her as “my Vicky.” It was...


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pp. 239-285


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pp. 287-307


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pp. 309-324

E-ISBN-13: 9780814336670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814335161

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 13
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a

OCLC Number: 777565431
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Max Lilienthal

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Subject Headings

  • Rabbis -- United States -- Biography.
  • Lilienthal, M. E. (Max E.), 1815-1882.
  • Reform Judaism -- United States.
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